Last updateThu, 18 Jan 2018 3am


Sports Illustrated: Beyond Size 10 and Beautiful

Robyn Lawley Shawn Johnsons The Body Department1

The media has always given the public a very clear image of beauty since the beginning of time.

The image created for our viewing pleasure is normally of a smaller woman, preferably sample size, with light skin and a perfect complex and a perfectly proportioned body. At least that’s what we’ve been seeing, up until now.

Recently, Sports Illustrated hired a “plus size” model, Robyn Lawley, in their annual Swimsuit Issue. Lawley is an Australian model who happens to be a size 12, the requirement for a plus size model is that they be “beyond size 10,” according to an article in USA Today

On the topic of Sports Illustrated featuring a plus sized model, New York Magazine stated that this is the first time in the publication’s history where they will be featuring a model who is “beyond sample size,” which traditionally is around a size 2.

This is a major turnaround for the world of modeling and entertainment. Having a plus sized model featured in a magazine known for sexualizing women has actually done something positive. It is making the average woman feel sexy.

Plus size model, Ashley Graham, who has appeared in a Calvin Klein ad in Sports Illustrated, told CNN that “the average American woman is size 12-14,” and strongly emphasized the point that “women want to see themselves in magazines.”

Though we live in a world where sexualizing women is now a “bad” thing and we should focus more on empowering each other based on other aspects, no one is going to pass up the chance to feel sexy. I don’t think there is anything more empowering to a woman when they’re told that they look beautiful. It doesn’t matter if the comment is coming from the person you have a crush on or a stranger in passing, everyone likes to feel good about how they look.

Though Sports Illustrated did in fact hire a plus size model, Robyn Lawley certainly doesn’t look like someone who’s “plus size” at first glance. In fact, she looks like any other standard size model with a well-proportioned body and above average looks. It’s almost as if Sports Illustrated wanted to represent a minority without having to go through too much trouble.

What I mean is this: Robyn Lawley belongs to a very small group of plus size model who happen to be a certain size because of their natural build. Lawley looks nothing like the women in other advertisements with plus size models. Her stomach is flat, her chest and butt are equally proportionate to one another and she does not have make up trying to make her look like a more made of version of herself. Lawley is the marketable plus size model.

Many other plus size models in the media do not look like Lawley and they certainly do not appear in the same advertisements that a traditional looking model would. Normally, plus size women appear in lingerie ads that target a larger sized woman who may actually look like the woman buying the product advertised. Not only that, but they are not nearly as sexualized as other women.

For example, the models who appear in advertisements for plus size women, especially television commercials, usually focus on being comfortable in a bra that minimizes every women’s nightmare, back fact. The lingerie being worn by the models in the commercial is usually not sexy, but it does look very comfortable because comfort, not sex, is what is being sold.

Every other lingerie advertisement in existence does not focus on finding the solution to back fact.  Instead, it focuses on how sexy the models look in the latest push-up bra, which is the polar opposite of comfort. In the end, sex prevails in the traditional lingerie commercial.

So, yes, Sports Illustrated is finally featuring a plus size model, someone who is supposed to look “more like the average woman,” in terms of clothing size. Essentially, the magazine is advertising that underlying message of “yeah, we’ll get on board with this whole plus size thing, but we’re finding the least plus size looking human possible for the job.” It is contradictory of the point that we as a society should be taking home about this.

We still have a lot of work to do before the actual “average” woman is made to be more attractive than the media implies, but for now, this is a start.


Contact Information

The Outlook
Jules L. Plangere Jr. Center for Communication
and Instructional Technology (CCIT)
Room 260, 2nd floor

The Outlook
Monmouth University
400 Cedar Ave, West Long Branch, New Jersey

Phone: (732) 571-3481 | Fax: (732) 263-5151